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A Most Welcome Gift

May 17, 1987

The last quarter-century has seen monumental cultural growth and a flourishing of the arts in Los Angeles. Coming years seem similarly bright with promise, not least because of the extraordinary offer by Lillian B. Disney, the widow of Walt Disney, to donate $50 million to construct a major concert hall as the new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Certainly this proposed gift ranks as one of the most generous ever offered for the support of the performing arts.

The new facilities would be built on what is now a county-owned parking lot on the south side of 1st Street, between Hope Street and Grand Avenue and directly opposite the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the home of the Philharmonic since 1964. Included in addition to a concert hall with 2,500-2,800 seats would be office space for the Music Center, rehearsal rooms and a new ticket office.

Ground-breaking could come within two years after administrative details are resolved and an architectural plan is prepared. F. Daniel Frost, chairman of the Board of Governors of the Music Center, estimates that the Disney gift could finance 90% or more of the total cost.

With dramatic suddenness, the Disney offer cuts through years of dispute over the siting of long-planned expansion of the Music Center. Some county officials have wanted all or part of the expansion to take place on the Civic Center Mall, between the County Courthouse and the Hall of Administration. Their hope was that the parking site across from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion could be commercially developed and so contribute to the county's tax base. But Music Center officials have resisted this plan, arguing that the mall site, between two architecturally undistinguished civic buildings, would prove unattractive to private donors.

The Music Center Board of Governors is scheduled to vote Monday on the Disney offer. Consideration of the proposal by the Philharmonic Assn. and the Board of Supervisors should come in the next few weeks. A benefaction of this magnitude is rare in the annals of philanthropy. It deserves a positive and prompt response.

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